It’s that time again…trade show time!

Two of the photography industry’s biggest events are happening over the next two months – Imaging USA in Nashville and WPPI in Vegas.  These are events in which over 10,000 photographers descend to attend classes, network with their peers, and check out the latest and greatest products and gear at the trade show. 

The challenge with events like this is that it can be totally overwhelming if it’s your first time…or even your 10th!  So here is my list of best practices to help you get the most from your experience….

For the classes

Make a list of what you want to learn:

There are LOTS of classes on LOTS of topics – before you even print out a schedule make a list of what areas of your business could use the most TLC.  Do you need to update your pricing, improve your client experience, kick your craft up a notch, etc?

Print out the schedule:

Next, it’s time to see what’s out there.  Print off the schedule so that you can make a plan and mark your can’t miss classes. 

Cyber-stalk the instructors: 

Not in a creepy way – but check them out.  Is someone running a business like you want to run?  Do they have work that you admire?  In those cases, it’s a no-brainer to mark their classes as *must attend.

Keep an open mind: 

…however, please keep an open mind!  Do not skip listening to someone just because their style isn’t what you love or they specialize in a different genre.  There is ALWAYS something to learn and that is when I have gotten the greatest a-ha’s…when finding a nugget from an unexpected place that I can apply to pet photography.

Take notes with a purpose:

Here’s the biggest risk with any education.  You are excited.  You go and sit in the front row, pen in hand, scribbling notes.  You are inspired to take massive action.  You get home and jump back into your routine.  Massive (or even minor) action never happens. 

This can be the BIGGEST game-changer for all of your education.  On the front page of your notebook, make an action item page.  Whenever you get a spark of inspiration or a nugget of insightful action mark it down on that page.  Then, when you get home, you have a to-do list ready to go!

For the trade show

Make a list of what you need to research and what you need to purchase:

Walking into a trade show without a plan is like grocery shopping hungry…did you really need 3 types of gourmet cheeses?

Do a walk-by on day one:

The trade show is like checking out the cruise line’s midnight buffet – you need to see everything that is there so that you don’t make poor decisions and fill up on food only to find better food at the other end!  When you first get there, take a spin around the (giant) room to see what vendors are there and what is catching your eye.  Then, consult your list and make a plan of attack.  Figuratively speaking, no need to actually attack the trade show workers…they are all very friendly!

Take advantage of show specials:

If there are purchases that you need to make for your business, doing so at the trade show can often save you a nice bit of money….probably enough for a chocolate martini or two!  I’ll meet you at the bar!

Don’t impulse buy too much:

…however, don’t just buy things because they are a good deal.  Make sure that it’s something that you actually need or that it was on your list.

For the entire event

Wear comfy shoes:

You are going to walk….A LOT.  You will thank me if you choose comfort over style.

Don’t forget business cards:

I think in the past 7 years of business I’ve given out more business cards to other photographers at conferences than I have to prospective clients. 

Don’t be shy:

This is a great opportunity to network and meet other people that understand the challenges of building your own business.  Conferences and workshops are how I have met so many of my dearest friends in this business.  There is just nothing like face to face time with your people.  Also, don’t be afraid to say hello.  I get it, it can be intimidating to say hello to someone that you admire or follow online, but just do it!  If it’s me I promise that I don’t bite, unless you are made of chocolate. 

If you are going to be at IMAGING USA next week:

I’m teaming up with the amazing Barbara Breitsameter to host a casual pet photographer meet-up on Tuesday at 1pm Central time.  We will be at The Falls Bar and Lounge in the Cascades Atrium of the Gaylord.  Everyone is responsible for their own food and beverage.  I’ll be the one with the chocolate martini.  Can’t wait to meet you!